Skip to main content

Full text of "Memoir of John C. Phillips"

See other formats

<: < 

^ c< (X ' 

1 < % > 

<:< b^ 

v . *- ^C, 3^< 
'< ^C ^^ 

'** * ?C ^ 


''C ", 




, c._ <r/ 

<T --^^ 

I - 

^1 < 

^^. '< < ^ 

.:. c <" :"* 

. <;< : c 

c , 



<^ <^ 

< <r<i 





V ^^fc 






Accessions No. 

Shelf No. 




















JOHN CHARLES PHILLIPS, Jr., son of the Rev. John Charles 
and Harriet Welch Phillips, was born in Boston Oct. 21, 1838, 
in his grandmother Phillips's house, on the spot where the 
Beacon Street Athenaeum now stands. He was a grandson 
of John Phillips the first mayor of Boston, a nephew of Wen- 
dell Phillips, a great-grandson of William Phillips the Revolu- 
tionary patriot, and a descendant of George Phillips the first 
minister of Watertown, who came to this country in the 
"Arbella" in 1630. His father, who had been settled at 
Weymouth, accepted a call to the pastorate of the Congrega- 
tional Church at Methuen when John was about a year old. 
Here the lad spent the years of his boyhood, receiving his 
early education partly at Mr. BlaisdelFs school in Lawrence, 
from which he entered Phillips Academy at Andover in 1851, 
at the age of thirteen, being one of the youngest boys of his 
class. He was gentle and modest in his deportment, a good 
classical scholar, and a general favorite in the school. 

After finishing his preparatory studies under Dr. Samuel H. 
Taylor, Phillips entered Harvard College in 1854. In addi- 
tion to the prescribed work of his class he accomplished a 
large amount of general reading, and also found time for boat- 


ing and other physical exercises which contributed in no small 
degree to the excellent state of health which he enjoyed at 
this period. The writer of this communication was his room- 
mate, and remembers walking with him from Cambridge to 
Methuen one day during the Thanksgiving recess. 

During the winter of his senior year Phillips taught a dis- 
trict school in the town of Bolton, where he had great success 
both as a teacher and a disciplinarian. Ability in the latter 
direction was needed, as some of his scholars were older and 
stronger than himself, and at first inclined to dispute his 
authority. It is sufficient to say that the young master proved 
equal to the situation, and not only brought the school under 
perfect control, but won the respect and good- will of all the 
members. With this winter's stipend (the first money he ever 
earned) he bought a wedding present for his eldest sister. 

After his graduation with the class of '58, Mr. Phillips went 
into the brokerage office of his brother-in-law Mr. Alfred B. 
Hall. While there he attracted the attention of Mr. R. C. 
Mackay, who offered him -a place as clerk in his shipping-house 
on Union Wharf. Here he soon gained the esteem and confi- 
dence of his employer, and the firm advanced him money to 
enable him to make little ventures in the ships. 

In 1860 he was sent out to Calcutta as supercargo on the 
ship " Union," Captain Norton, and remained there nearly two 
years as agent, living at No. 55 Radha-Bazaar House in the 
native quarter. The outbreak of the war in America occa- 
sioned him much anxiety, and in 1862 he returned to Boston 
with the intention of entering the army. But the persuasion 
of friends, and the thought that, being an only son and his 
father in delicate health, his first duty lay at home, led him 
to send a substitute to the war. He afterwards, however, 
regretted that he had not gone himself. 

In 1864 Mr. Phillips was sent to England to sell a vessel, 
and the following year he formed a partnership with the 
eldest son of his former employer, under the firm of William 
Mackay & Co. (afterwards Mackay & Phillips), for the trans- 
action of a general commission business in New York. Soon 
after this he made two business voyages to Cuba. The new 
enterprise was fairly remunerative, but not sufficiently so 
to warrant its continuance many years, and he consequentl}' 
started the new firm of John C. Phillips & Co., in conjunction 
with Messrs. Floyd & Stevens, who had been previously asso- 
ciated with him in the Eastern trade. Their dealings were 
chiefly with China and Manilla. He remained in active busi- 
ness until a few months before his death. 

William Phillips, a distant relative, having taken a fancy 
to him upon a slight acquaintance formed at sea, offered to 
give him $50,000, saying that if his business was not satis- 
factory this sum might help him to make it more so. John 
wrote him in reply that his business was perfectly satisfac- 
tory. His generous relative, however, gave him the money, 
and in addition offered to settle $50,000 more on his wife 
should he decide to marry. In 1873 this gentleman died un- 
married and left our friend a large fortune in trust. He had 
clung to the old English custom of leaving his property to a 
male relative bearing the family name. As there was not a 
Phillips among his first or second cousins, and as his third 
cousin was John's father, who did not need additional property, 
he resolved to make his fourth cousin heir to his estate. 
William Phillips was a Harvard graduate, but had never had a 
home of his own, having roamed extensively over the world 
without forming any special friendships or acquaintances. 
Part of his fortune he had inherited from his father, and part 
from his cousin Edward Phillips. He died in Santa Cruz, hav- 

ing been attended by an English clergyman and the consul, 
who signed the necessary papers as witnesses. 

In 1874, soon after inheriting this fortune, Mr. Phillips 
sailed for Europe, and was married in London the following 
year, October 23, to Anna, daughter of Alanson Tucker, 
Esq., of Boston. The ceremony was performed by Canon 
Kemp at St. James Church, Piccadilly, in the presence of 
a few invited guests. On returning to this country Mr. and 
Mrs. Phillips lived for about a year in New York, and then 
decided to make Boston their home. Being much interested 
in agricultural pursuits, Mr. Phillips bought two or three hun- 
dred acres near Wenham Lake in North Beverly, and soon 
converted what had been a barren hillside into a creditable 
farm. Here orr a well-chosen site he built a fine house, in 
which he was accustomed to spend six months of the year. 
He also built a handsome winter residence in Boston, on the 
corner of Berkeley and Marlborough Streets. 

It is gratifying to record the fidelity with which Mr. Phillips 
used the exceptional advantages which fell to his lot. So far 
from being elated by his fortune, he felt that it was placed in 
his hands as a sacred trust. He made himself acquainted with 
the objects of charity which he intended to aid, and then gave 
liberally. As an educated man he was especially interested in 
education, and gave large sums to the well-known academies 
bearing his family name at Andover and Exeter. He was 
always aiding some relative or friend at school or college. 
He bought a plantation at the South, partly with the hope of 
being able to do some good among the negroes there. He was 
a trustee of Phillips Exeter Academy, the Children's Hospital, 
the Blind Asylum, and the Peabody Museum. He was also 
a director of the Union Bank and of the Boston and Albany 

The native modesty which characterized our friend's boy- 
hood remained with him through life ; and many of his good 
deeds remained unknown. All who knew him would say 
that he had strong common sense, calm judgment, great self- 
control, and a cheerful disposition. He was a singularly true, 
single-minded man, devoid of ostentation, and earnestly desir- 
ous to do his duty. His business career was marked by a 
high sense of honor and the strictest integrity rather than by 
any bold or brilliant ventures. 

Although not long a member of this Society, Mr. Phillips 
took an interest in its work. His death, which occurred 
March 1, 1885, was caused by a disease of the heart from which 
he had suffered for several years, though many of his nearest 
friends were not aware of it. He left a widow and five chil- 
dren. The accompanying engraving is from a photograph 
taken ten years before his death. 





THE death of Mr. Phillips at the early age of forty-six is 
a subject for real sorrow in our community. With our own 
Society he had been associated but a few years. A lineal 
descendant of the Rev. George Phillips, the famous Puritan 
minister of Watertown in 1630, the companion and friend 
of Governor Winthrop, who came over with Winthrop and the 
Charter, and catechised and preached on board the "Arbella" 
on the voyage, he could not fail to take an interest in the 
earliest history of Massachusetts. I remember his showing me, 
with pride, an original autograph sermon of that distinguished 
ancestor and excellent man, when I was visiting him in his 
beautiful library some years ago. I believe he had other 
Phillips manuscripts, which we may hope will not be wholly 
lost to our Collections hereafter. 

His later lineage, too, was of a kind to make him observant 
of whatever contributed to the honor and welfare of our Com- 
monwealth. His family name is associated, as we know, with 
some of our most celebrated academies and institutions. An- 
dover and Exeter owe their famous schools to the bounty and 
beneficence of the Phillipses. The Observatory of Harvard 


University was principally endowed by one of the same name 
and blood. The statues which adorn our squares are, many 
of them, from a Phillips Fund. He himself had given the 
generous sum of twenty-five thousand dollars to the Phillips 
Academy at Andover at their centennial celebration in 1878, 
and an equal amount to the Phillips Exeter Academy on a 
similar occasion. And it is within my own knowledge that 
he had supplied most important arid liberal pecuniary and 
personal aid to other institutions, at moments of special need. 
I was associated with him as one of the Trustees of the Pea- 
body Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Cambridge, 
of which he has been the Treasurer for several years past, and 
to which he has rendered valuable service. I was associated 
with him, also, in the management of the new Children's 
Hospital, of whose board he was the Vice-President at his 
death, and of which he had been a most efficient and liberal 

A graduate of Harvard in the Class of 1858, there are those 
here who can bear witness to his character as a student, as 
well as to his worth as a man, better than myself; but I can- 
not but feel that our community has sustained a great loss 
in his early death, for which I desire to record my personal 


From the President of the Board of Trustees of Phillips Exeter 

MY regard and affection for him, my confidence in his judg- 
ment, and my reliance upon it have steadily increased with 
our intimacy, since I first shared his nearer acquaintance. 

The relation which brought us together a part as it were 
of the inheritance which came to him by merit and fitness as 
well as by race gave me an opportunity to know and appre- 
ciate him, which any ordinary social association would not have 
given ; and I had learned to estimate him so highly as a per- 
sonal friend, as well as a valued associate, that the loss seems 
doubly irreparable. His judicious, modest, but manly counsel; 
his frank and courteous liberality of opinion ; his ready and 
unfailing interest in the duties which he accepted; his con- 
scientious fidelity to them ; and his generosity, as unpretending 
as it was munificent, are taken from us; and I know not 
how we can replace them, or how to find united with these 
excellences the attractive personal qualities which insured 
affection as well as respect and confidence from all who 
knew him. 


From One who was intimately associated with him in Business. 

WHAT I can do is to bear witness to the true and noble man- 
liness of his character. It is now many years since I first made 
his acquaintance, and during a long part of that acquaintance 
we were in close business relations. From the first to the 
last of my intimacy with him, I never knew him to act but 
from the best motives. His character was, above all things, 
purely unselfish. He was, above all the men I have known, 
the one the least affected by the outward circumstances of 
prosperity or adversity ; those might change with him, but he 
never changed, never altered his calm goodness. 

Looking back upon my acquaintance and intercourse with 
John C. Phillips, I can truly say he was one of the men I am 
the better from having known ; and while I live, the recollec- 
tion of his friendship will be one of the happy memories of 
my life. 

From One of his Partners. 

I HAVE only the pleasantest testimony to bear, and can re- 
member nothing but what was generous and unselfish in all 
Mr. Phillips's motives and actions. Indeed, I often wondered 
how patient he could be under annoyances and disappoint- 
ments that might well have irritated and discouraged him. 

I really feel as if my best friend without the circle of my 
immediate relations was gone ; and sadly shall I miss the 
counsel and sympathy which I always relied upon receiving 
from him. 

From the Salem Gazette. 

MR. PHILLIPS was modest, kind, and ever thoughtful of the 
welfare of others. His ample fortune was freely used in un- 
announced acts of generosity and friendship. His taste for 
horticulture led him to the establishment of the beautiful 


summer home on the borders of Wenham Lake, familiar to 
every one in this neighborhood, the labor upon which has 
given employment to many hands. Mr. Phillips was much 
interested in arboriculture, and was a member of the Board 
of Trustees of the Archaeological Museum at Cambridge. His 
death will not only be mourned by a large circle of intimate 
friends, but it will bring sincere regret to all who have ever 
met him. The community can ill afford to lose one who, 
possessed of social position and ample fortune, seeks the com- 
fort and happiness of others as often as his own, and who by 
his quiet, unaffected mode of life is so excellent an example to 
his fellow-men. 

RETURN TO the circulation desk of any 
University of California Library 

or to the 

Bldg. 400, Richmond Field Station 
University of California 
Richmond, CA 94804-4698 


2-month loans may be renewed by calling 

1-year loans may be recharged by bringing 
books to NRLF 

Renewals and recharges may be made 4 
days prior to due date. 




LD 21A-50m-8,'57 

General Library 

University of California 




* ? ~ ^ f *^VS&L: ' ***^'W 

>> m 

^-=. -*w ' 

!>2^JP *2m 

33afe ^aO? 


> >r*- 


>~> ~y> 

*-^M* "* 1 'X^>" ""^S^^ 3^ 
3^^ >&>^^^&^ ^ 


.> > :^i. 

>. ^r